Amy Winehouse Hot 07

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

For the last three years, "TMZ" tmz.com has been reviled by many as the nadir of Internet celebrity gossip culture. The salacious, wildly popular gossip site and its TV spinoff -- (TMZ on TV), which began airing nightly in national syndication on Fox one year ago this month -- has been called evil and worse, and not just by the celebrities it skewers. But, in fact, could it be that "TMZ" serves a moral purpose by embodying the Seven Virtues (and then some) in its staunch crusade against the Seven Deadly Sins?

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

As an object lesson in what not to do and how not to behave, the show is better than a PSA marathon. Its vignettes stand as little cautionary tales. Drink too much, and you can end up like Andy Dick. Eat too much, and you can turn into Kirstie Alley. Boast too of ten, and you might be a ringer for Fr'ed'eric Prinz von Anhalt (or, as "TMZ" calls him, "Prince von Ahole"), Zsa Zsa Gabor's ninth husband who claimed to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's daughter, Dannielynn, until a paternity test proved him wrong. Be too vain, and wind up like Priscilla Presley, face pumped full of motor oil in her prideful quest for the fountain of youth.

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

Chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility have a hard time of it in Hollywood. But "TMZ" has come to the rescue.

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

With its Highlights for Children "Fun With a Purpose" view of the universe that is the 30-mile zone of Hollywood -- ie. the world -- "TMZ" helpfully presents Goofus versus Gallant examples galore throughout its daily half-hour TV show, and hour long recaps on weekends. Would you rather be like Cheryl Burke, the "Dancing With the Stars" Goofus who never met a man, a drink or a photo op she didn't like? Or George Clooney, Gallant to a fault:

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

polite, modest, talented, self-effacing and ever using his powers for good, not=2 0evil? Your choice.

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

TMZ, I confess, is my guilty pleasure. I record it on my DVR nightly, without fail, and watch it when no one's around. I have, when caught, been mercilessly teased. But it turns out this pleasure is not mine alone. I'm in the company of millions. It seems like only yesterday that a brand-new magazine called People was20chastised for being fluffy. But these days, gossip is big business. "TMZ" -- which brings in an average of 3 million viewers per viewing this year, the Nielsen Company says, the same as "Access Hollywood" and more than fellow gossip shows "What Perez Sez," "The Soup," "E! News" and "Daily Ten" put together -- is like some twisted love child of The National Enquirer, Spy magazine, Jon Stewart and Joan Rivers. Produced and hosted by Harvey Levin, managing editor of the Web site, it is quick, clever and more than a tad bitchy, but it's all for the greater good. "The show is edgy, and it has attitude," Levin says. Who knew celebrity gossip also had a redeeming side?

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

At 6:40-ish a.m., Levin, the show's resident grown-up, commands the troops, jotting the celebstories du jour on a glass blackboard, each offered up by his "newsroom" staff of puppyish reporters. There's the cute blond guy separated at birth from Fabio, whom he smirkingly refers to as "my dad." There's the world-weary I-Know-But-It's-Just-My-Job guy with dreadlocks. There's the blond excitable girl whose eyes pop wide to bursting with each celebrity sighting: Lindsay, Samantha glued to her side! Shia LaBoeuf, at the hospital, post-drunken driving! Katherine Heigl, smoking a cigarette after making a New Year's resolution to quit!

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

Levin, a lawyer ("I'm a lawyer!" the credits screech at the end of each show) who covered the O.J. Simpson trial for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, broke the Mel Gibson anti-Semitic rant story on TMZ.com (owned by AOL and Telepictures Productions, subsidiaries of Time Warner), and stalwartly continues representing the public's right to full disclosure of celebrity doings, particularly misdoings.

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Amy Winehouse Hot Photos

All these sites, including The New York Post's Page Six, nypost.com/gossip/gossip, and People.com, post updates, breaking and otherwise, through the day and night. You could gorge yourself silly on celeb gossip Web sites, among them Oh No They Didn't, ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com; Drunken Stepfather, drunkenstepfather.com; Celeb Slam, celebslam.com; Dlisted, dlisted.com; Celebrity Babylon, celebritybabylon.com; Just Jared, justjared.buzznet.com; and The Defamer, defamer.com. Levin says he starts his day when he wakes up at 3:30 a.m. by updating the Web site. He and everyone else is ready to go for the show by 6 a.m.